This Week’s Big Stories: FIRE’s Annual Speech Code Report, National Mailing, and Calls for End-of-Year Donations

By December 30, 2010

A blizzard and holiday travel delays could not stop FIRE from fighting for liberty during 2010’s final week.

The University of Virginia’s (UVa’s) meteoric ascent from a red-light to green-light institution resurfaced in the news Wednesday when Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post wrote for her blog The Answer Sheet about UVa’s elimination of four policies that had restricted free speech on campus. She also cited the persistently high percentage (67%) of red-light schools remaining in the country, taken from our recently issued annual report on speech codes, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2011: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses.

Tim Johnson also mentions our Spotlight report in his column for the Burlington Free Press about the University of Vermont’s yellow-light rating and Middlebury College’s red-light rating. He cites the specific policies that have led FIRE to rate these institutions as such, and quotes Samantha’s analysis of Middlebury’s particularly chilling "Anti-Harassment Policy," as well as the Middlebury "Community Standards."

Most Torch readers will know that last week FIRE sent out a certified mailing to the presidents and top lawyers at nearly 300 public colleges and universities across the nation, warning them that the defense of qualified immunity could no longer be relied upon to shield them and their staff from having to pay monetary damages out of their own pockets for blatantly violating students’ free speech rights. Bob Unruh quoted our mailing extensively in his column for WorldNetDaily. Additionally, after Robert wrote a column in Pajamas Media that drew further attention to our mailing, Glenn Reynolds linked to the column on Instapundit.com and wisely suggested that people make an end-of-year charitable donation to FIRE.

Speaking of donations, Rand Simberg of Transterrestrial Musings remarked that FIRE remained at the top of his list of good causes to donate for, characterizing us as cultural warriors fighting to protect freedom from the grasps of college administrators who wish to roll back the advances humans made during the Enlightenment. (I’ve always fancied myself as something of a knight for liberty, so I’m glad that someone else finally feels the same way.) Additionally, J. DeVoy of The Legal Satyricon referenced eight of FIRE’s academic publications in his short blog post advocating for people to donate to FIRE.

The Legal Satyricon also extensively cited Popehat‘s comical blog post (covered in last week’s media blog) further ridiculing the investigation of alleged blogger Len Audaer at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL). The Legal Satyricon even denounced the idea of giving job interviews to SUCOL graduates who don’t publicly speak out against SUCOL’s investigation of Audaer! (Note: The blogger uses much more colorful language in his blog post.) Naturally, the blog post ends with a suggestion that people donate to FIRE.

Campus Legal Advisor, a print publication aimed at higher ed attorneys, wrote up FIRE’s Smith v. Tarrant County College District court case in its January 2011 edition. Torch readers may remember that FIRE partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and attorney Karin Cagle to win a lawsuit that forced Tarrant County College not only to allow students to protest with empty holsters on campus, but also to dissolve the restrictive free speech zone policy used to limit student rights on campus.

Finally, Todd Zywicki publicized FIRE’s work on The Volokh Conspiracy by linking to Azhar’s blog post about all of our law review articles from the past two years and FIRE’s interview with Dave Barry, as well as Valerie Strauss’ column on UVa.

That’s all for 2010, so on behalf of the entire FIRE staff: Happy New Year and keep fighting for liberty!